One of Green Thumb Industries’ Rise dispensary location in Joliet, Ill. Credit: Instagram / Green Thumb Industries

Following the lead of workers in Niles Ill. three months prior, 27 workers in Green Thumb Industries Rise Dispensary in Joliet, Ill. voted to join Teamsters Local 777 on Tuesday. 

Employees at the Colorado Street location chose to join the labor union in hopes of creating more stable careers in the cannabis industry as well as combining their love for cannabis culture. 43 workers at the facility are now unionized, with the final vote being 27 in favor and 3 against unionizing.

“Congratulations to all of these workers who stood strong throughout this process,” said Jim Glimco, Local 777 President. “In spite of the election being delayed, they stuck together and maintained solidarity the entire time. We’re looking forward to going to the negotiating table.”

The vote represents a growing national labor movement in the cannabis industry. In addition to Rise, workers at Illinois dispensaries who voted this spring to join Local 777 earlier this year include Columbia Care’s Zen Leaf, PharmaCann’s Verilife, and Revolution Global’s Enlightened.

Workers in Michigan have been unionizing as well, with Heritage Provisioning, a Battle Creek retail cannabis facility, being the first to do so in West Michigan with UFCW Local 951. Left Coast Holdings’ Manistee, Mich. the dispensary joined UFCW Local 876 as well after owners voluntarily recognized the union as a bargaining unit.

“We need fairness, equal employment and a positive work environment,” Rise employee Allison Fullman says. “We want protection against mistreatment and discrimination. We will make the cannabis industry a happy and healthy place once again!”

Glimco believes workers at these locations – and in the cannabis industry as a whole – have become more willing to unionize than other industries because of their youth and increasing knowledge of labor laws. He anticipates that as the industry grows, more workers will seek union representation, crediting the Colorado Street workers for joining the union.

“Cannabis is the fifth-largest cash crop in the United States, and Rise’s parent company, Green Thumb Industries, made nearly $900 million last year,” said Peter Finn, Teamsters Food Processing Division Director. “A Teamster contract is essential to ensuring that these workers see their fair share of that revenue.”

Caitlin Gorman, a long-term industry worker at Rise, says that the employees also needed more physical security, as the location lacks enough guards to secure the premises. As a single mother of 2, she also said that the workers advocated for more flexible hours for unpredictable life circumstances.

“I grew up to be so passionate about this industry,” Gorman said. “It would almost be really sad to see the industry lose people like me. To see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that all this time I spent dealing with these things makes me feel really hopeful.”

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.